Linton loses at Privy Council
Opposition Leader Lennox Linton loses a landmark case against chartered accountant Kieron Pinard-Byrne
The fat lady has sung, the game is over. The score: Kieron Pinard-Byrne 2, Lennox Linton 1.
The Law Lords of the Privy Council of England have ruled in favour of chartered accountant Kieron Pinard-Byrne and against Opposition Leader Lennox Linton in a defamation case.
But Linton said on Q95 radio today that his "head is bloodied but not bowed" and he intends to focus in the next few weeks on the aftermath of the Layou River Hotel disaster.
The Privy Council Rules
"The Board concludes that the Court of Appeal was wrong to allow LL's appeal," said the Privy Council in its judgement released today.
The Privy Council continued: "The question for decision by the judge (in the High Court) was whether, in publishing the words complained of, that is the defamatory words, LL was acting responsibly and had a duty to the public to publish them. As Lord Nicholls put it in the first of his ten points, the more serious the charge, the more the public is misinformed and the individual (here KPB) harmed, if the allegations are not true. The focus is upon the allegations which are not true. Thus, where in his second point Lord Nicholls focuses upon the nature of the information and the extent to which the subject matter is a matter of public concern, he is again referring to the allegations which prove not to be true.
"As the Board sees it, it is not sufficient for the court to focus on the underlying circumstances. Thus is not sufficient to say, as the Court of Appeal did, that the underlying project was a matter of public interest or a matter of public importance. The judge correctly accepted that it was, as indeed did the Court of Appeal. The Board recognises that evidence that KPB was guilty of wrongdoing would be a matter of public importance. However, in the opinion of the Board, before making allegations to that effect it was the duty of LL to carry out a reasonable investigation to ascertain whether they were true. The problem is that LL did not carry out an investigation to that end. The Board accepts that, as the Court of Appeal concludes, he made some investigations into the Project. There is however no evidence that he investigated whether KPB was guilty of the kind of wrongdoing alleged in the words complained of."
In the beginning
As background, in 2013, Judges of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) overruled a lower court decision which had slapped heavy fines on Linton and others for alleged defamatory statements made regarding Pinard-Byrne, the accountant and former owners' representative of the ill-fated Layou River Hotel that Pinard-Byrne has described as a construction disaster.
At the High Court phase of the court battle Judge Brian Cottle ruled that the words complained of were defamatory of Pinard-Byrne and that the statements "did not constitute fair comments on a matter of public interest."
Score: Pinard-Byrne, 1.
However, judges of the ECSC, Dame Janice Pereira, Davidson Baptiste and Mario Michel over-turned that decision and ruled that "The speaking, writing and publishing of the words complained of were done in circumstances which attracted qualified privilege."
As a result, they allowed the appeal, dismissing the Pinard-Byrne's counter appeal.
The ECSC judges ruled that Linton "did in fact undertake an extensive investigation of the issues which he spoke about during the radio broadcast and in the internet article" adding that it was not "open to the learned trial judge (Cottle) to make the finding that (Linton) did not make any enquiries and that this factor weighed heavily against him being able to rely on the defence of qualified privilege".
The judges concluded: "the speaking, writing and publishing of the words complained of were done in circumstances which attracted qualified privilege."
Score: Pinard- Byrne 1, Linton 1.
Not satisfied with that decision, Pinard-Byrne took the case to the Privy Council and the matter was heard in April 2015. It ends there; there are no more appeals.
Final score: Pinard-Byrne 2, Linton 1.